USA: election in Nicaragua was a “pantomime”

“What Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, orchestrated today was the pantomime of an election that was neither free nor fair, and certainly not democratic,” President Joe Biden told Sunday. through a statement released by the White House.

Minutes earlier, the polls had closed in Nicaragua, where Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term and the elections took place amid criticism from the opposition and the international community. The Nicaraguan government insisted during the day that the process went smoothly, while the streets and voting centers looked practically empty. The opposition previously called to stay home and not vote in protest against the electoral process and the day before denounced the capture of leaders.

“The arbitrary imprisonment of almost 40 opposition figures since May, including seven possible presidential candidates, and the blocking of the participation of political parties manipulated the result long before election day,” added the US document, which also criticized the detention of journalists and members of civil society. “Long unpopular and now without a democratic mandate, the Ortega and Murillo family now rule Nicaragua as autocrats, no different from the Somoza family that Ortega and the Sandinistas fought four decades ago.”

Police arrested seven presidential hopefuls in June on charges that basically amounted to treason. On election day they were still in detention. Another two dozen opposition leaders were detained before the vote. The other candidates on Sunday were little-known politicians from smaller parties considered to be sympathetic to the (FSLN).

For Sunday’s elections, 13,000 points were qualified. The elections will determine who will hold the presidency for the next five years, in addition to 90 of the 92 seats in Congress and the Nicaraguan representation in the Central American Parliament. More than 4.4 million Nicaraguans aged 16 and over were eligible to vote. The Supreme Electoral Council previously indicated that the first partial results would be published around midnight. The tentative count was expected on Monday.

“In recent years it was really full … Before you had to (wait) in a long line to come here and now it is empty,” Nicaraguan Mayela Rodríguez told the AP from a voting center that on Sunday looked practically deserted in Managua.

In Managua and the main cities of the country, the streets appeared with little traffic from early on and numerous homes and businesses closed, despite the fact that since Saturday night the police lifted the ban on the sale of liquor in bars, restaurants and convenience stores.

Among the voters stood out activists from the Sandinista Youth, an organization attached to the ruling party, such as Edwing Dávila, 25, from the department of Carazo, south of the capital. “I vote because it is my right as a citizen, out of love for the Sandinista Front and because I want more progress for my country. I cannot fool myself by denying that Nicaragua has made progress with the government of President Daniel Ortega, ”Dávila told The Associated Press.

For her part, Raquel Baltodano, an assistant in a grocery store in the western part of Managua, told the AP that she came to vote under duress: “My employer is a Sandinista and she told me that if I did not vote, she would fire me. from work”.

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The government did not invite observers from the OAS, the European Union, and the Carter Center, who questioned Ortega’s re-election in 2011 and 2016, and instead accredited 232 “electoral companions,” mostly sent by governments and political parties. left. Among them, Dmitry Novikov, representative of the Russian State Duma, toured some polling stations in Managua accompanied by his colleagues from Ossetia and South Abkhazia. So did members of a delegation from Mexico, who praised “the transparency, order and organization” of the voting, as reported by the official channel 4 television.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and its allies control Congress and government institutions. Ortega served a first term as president between 1985 and 1990, before returning to power in 2007. He recently declared his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, “co-president”. That charge does not exist in the Constitution.

The day before, the opposition Blue and White National Unit (UNAB) declared itself in a “state of alert” after reporting the capture of at least eight of its leaders “kidnapped – according to it – by the regime in illegal raids” during the afternoon and night. of Saturday. The Civic Alliance in turn denounced cases of “harassment, surveillance, threats, intimidation, harassment, attacks, illegal and arbitrary arrests” of some of its leaders in various localities of the country.

The citizen observatories Urnas Abiertas and Monitoreo Azul y Blanco – linked to the opposition – reported 21 arrests in nine provinces, of which – they said – five were released.

The National Police had neither confirmed nor denied the opposition complaints. After casting their vote, both the director of the police, Francisco Díaz, and the chief of the Army, General Julio Avilés, assured that the voting was taking place in “complete tranquility.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said on its Twitter account that it received information about “raids, arbitrary detentions, harassment and restrictions on the press. It urges the State to cease the repression against leaders of the opposition, and human rights defenders ”.

Ortega and his wife voted at noon in the capital’s El Carmen neighborhood, where the supervised complex that houses their residence and the (FSLN) secretariat is located. Later, Ortega gave a speech to Sandinista Youth activists, in which he attacked the United States and once again accused it of “fomenting and financing the massive protests of April 2018, which his government described as” a failed coup. ” He added that the United States “continues to conspire because it did not want these elections to take place.”

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions against the president’s inner circle, but the government’s response was to detain more opponents. In a statement issued Sunday by the White House, President Biden said that he called “the Ortega-Murillo regime to take immediate measures to restore democracy in the country,” release those detained unjustly for claiming the right of Nicaraguans to free and fair elections and assured that until that happens, the United States, in coordination with other members of the international community, “will use all the diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support the Nicaraguan people and hold the government of Ortega-Murillo accountable. who facilitate their abuses ”.

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